Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Another Potholder Show and Tell

Maggie in Arizona contacted me recently with her potholders that she made from my tutorial.

These ones really have that Southwest theme, don't they?

But these are my favorites. I love the colors!

Way to go, Maggie, and thanks for the photos!

Anyone else want to send me photos of the potholders?  I'd love to post them right here.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Our Christmas Dinner

The computer has been difficult to commandeer lately - either we're watching a movie, or someone else is using it.  Truth be told, I haven't tried too hard to post to my blog.  But with nothing particular going on right this moment, I thought I'd post the pix of our Christmas dinner, which was so satisfying for me.

I bought this meat at my butcher shop. It's called a rosemary lamb loin. Rosemary because they tied a sprig of rosemary to the meat. I removed that rosemary, but included a large measure of dried rosemary in the bread crumbs, along with garlic powder and salt and pepper. The breadcrumbs were adhered with grey poupon mustard. Then I slathered the roast with olive oil, placed it on a rack and roasted it at 425 degrees F for about 25 minutes.

I let it rest for probably 20 minutes, under foil, before I cut it.

And then most of the bread crumb crust fell off! But it didn't matter - it did its job: keep the meat moist and flavor it. And it was so moist and flavorful - I was pleasantly surprised. This meat didn't have much fat on it, so I was worried that I might have horse flesh when I was done. And I was warned not to overcook it, as it tends to become an unpleasant gray color when it is well-done. But you can see it was plenty pink and I can vouch for its tenderness.

Then we had brussels sprouts with peppered bacon. I could never stand brussels sprouts as a kid - now I'm eating them like candy! But who could resist anything with bacon? This is my new favorite recipe and I can't wait to make it again.  (I tried to find this recipe online again for this post, but couldn't locate it.  Email me if you want the recipe.)

Our last dish was a particularly fussy one to make, and this picture doesn't do it justice. It's called Tagliatelle with Oranges and Almonds, and I got the recipe off the Splendid Table website (I also heard it on their podcast and had to try it out). It is one weird recipe, all right, but really wonderful with these other dishes.

Here's another look at that pasta with the other dishes. Everything turned out really yummy and I didn't stress at all.

And because we didn't have it at Thanksgiving,

I made pumpkin pie. Lumpy crust, huh? It tasted just fine.

And while I'm at it, let me show you the German apple pancake I made for breakfast, before it deflates.

My daughter ate all the apples off her slice and then didn't want anymore. Weird. So I decorated her slice with

you guessed it, BACON! and it was really delish this way, too.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Christmas on Orchard Road

We didn't actually go down and look at the lights on Christmas day, or even Christmas eve, but on the 23rd. We did this last year, too, and it was pretty nice, if you like crowds.

We started out near the Forum. Actually, we ate at the Hard Rock Cafe and then headed out to Orchard.

All the different malls have their own theme.

But the overall theme seemed to be sweets or candy this year.

We walked down the road for an hour or two, and then we had enough of fighting the crowds and stuff, so we went home.

I guess this is as close as I can get to driving around, looking at how people have decorated their houses for Christmas, which is one of my favorite things to do during the holiday. Of course, it wasn't near cold enough, and all the decorations were more commercially motivated rather than just for being pretty. No wonder we were disenchanted. I don't guess I need to do this next year, but it was nice to get out with the family.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Craft Therapy

This afternoon, we had family craft time. My husband had been saving empty toilet paper rolls for weeks, insisting that he was going to make something out of them. The original plan was an angel choir, but I didn't really think I would want to live with something like that in my house. Never mind the fact that we have very little horizontal surface that isn't decorated already.

So, I got out the paint and glitter and covered the table. I summoned both husband and daughter, and we started painting

We painted both the inside and the outside.

After the paint was dry, the cuts were made. First, I followed the line of one of the seams.

Then, I cut again every half inch or so.

The cuts were made to about 1/4" from the top.

After cutting, I made a slight crease at the top of each spiral, parallel to the top of the tube, to make them curl back in towards the center.

It was at this point that the glitter and sequins were added to most of the ornaments - this one was glittered before cutting. Two holes were pushed through the top of the tubes, a thread was drawn through, and they were ready to hang.

Well, at least it kept us off the street for a couple of hours.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Beating One's Head Against the Wall

Yesterday was a day of failed attempts. A day of not quites. One of those days where one must spend the creative energy that is building under the surface, yet every creative enterprise leaves one wanting.

So, I started the day making a batch of cookie press cookie dough. Standard Christmas cookie recipe, and it needs to be refrigerated so I thought I'd just make the dough and my daughter and I would cook them later. So far, so good.

Then I decided to make a cookie from Gourmet's site. They have the most popular cookie for every year since 1940, and there were some that looked interesting, so I wanted to try. The cookie of choice was the Cranberry Pistachio Icebox Cookies. Here's their picture.

I think you can see why I wanted to make them.

Here's what mine looked like:

Ahem. Not quite.
Well, the recipe has to be chilled for 2 hours, so I spent lots of time goofing around with them, and then I wasn't happy with the result.
Why wasn't I happy? Well, the dough is so crumbly, and you have to chill it and then slice it, but those are whole pistachios and cranberries in the dough. Not very easy to slice with crunchy, chewing stuff in there. So it was a total mess. Those two cookies up there are probably the only ones that looked like that. The rest are not very pretty at all.
I realized, too late, that the problem was that I substituted shortening for the butter. I also substitued equal for the sugar, but I don't think that made the dough much different.

Moving on...

While the cookies were baking, I attempted a paper craft.
I have this picture on my desktop currently:

And I've been looking at these star lanterns thinking I could probably figure out how to make one. I had a failed attempt two days ago that left me better educated and more determined. Then I found a pattern online, and after running out and buying more red paper, I made a template and tried again.

Sure, it looks pretty good here. But it's not.

It's in the gluing of this last spoke that things are coming apart at the seams. Literally, I have a tear somewhere in there.

And then there's this little bubble.

Sheesh! Can't I have one thing I attempt work out?

So, by now it's nearing 3:00. I haven't showered yet, let alone brushed my teeth. So I took a break from the creative stuff and when I came back, I decided dinner was going to be the thing that worked out.

Ratatouille's Ratatouille worked out just wonderfully, even though I cheated on the recipe. Instead of all the rigamarole with the tomato sauce, I just used some traditional Prego with some red wine and balsamic vinegar added.

And it was delish.


Sunday, December 14, 2008

The First Photo

My darling friend, Akiko, sent me this picture of her very Christmassy and very cute potholders that she made from my tutorial.
Aren't they wonderful? She really went to town with the piecing on the first one! Way to go, Akiko, and thank for the pic!

Christmas Spoiler Alert












Well, I finished a project today. Obviously a Christmas present for my daughter. I got the pattern here, but I couldn't find grey eyelash yarn without going all over the island to look for it. Instead, I found some really soft light grey kid mohair yarn, which I doubled up with some dark grey wool and cotton yarn I already had. It's not as fuzzy as the original, but after I brushed it I discovered that it's quite soft. I also decided I did not like the way the original feet and wings were done, so I adapted my own ideas.

I also had to make him a snack. It's a long time until Christmas for a little penguin, although he has the appearance of one who doesn't need to worry about getting enough to eat. That's the least of his worries.

So here are the feet I made. I changed the pattern to make 2 distinct feet with 3 toes each.

Here is a top view. His beak isn't always bent like that.

And here's the final shot of the potholders before I wrapped them.

My daughter is carrying the first pair to her piano lesson this afternoon.

Please Share

Since so many people have written to say they will be making the potholders, I wanted to encourage them and you to please send pictures of your finished product so I can share them here on the blog.

Also, please let me know if there's any questions about assembly that I didn't address in the tutorial.

Have a very merry Christmas!

Friday, December 12, 2008

Pot Holder Tutorial

Due to overwhelming response (one request), I will post the instructions for the pot holders. I love to teach!

Begin by cutting strips 2 inches wide by at least 18 inches long.

I have multiples of each color here because I'm making multiple pot holders.

Sew your strips together with a quarter-inch seam and press the seams all in one direction. Trim the top and bottom edges even after sewing.

Trim your strips so that you have one piece that measures 9 1/2 inches by 10 inches, and one piece that measures 9 1/2 inches by 7 inches.

To the 9 1/2 by 7 inch piece, attach a 2 inch strip at the top and bottom. Press the seams toward the 2 inch strip.

You should now have two blocks measuring 9 1/2 inches by 10 inches. In the picture above, the back, and the front.

Now cut three layers of batting at the same measurement as your blocks. I use Hobbes Heirloom, and I have so many scraps that this project is an ideal way to use them up.
If you're smart, you will also include two layers of heat-resistant fabric which is pretty easy to find in the States, but I didn't even try to locate any in Singapore.

Pin and baste stitch all three layers of the batting to one of your blocks.

Your basting should be at a scant 1/8th inch so that it wont show through when the final 1/4 inch seam is sewn.

For the next step, you will need 5 inches of double-fold bias binding tape in a coordinating color. Make a loop and sew diagonally across the edge of the tape at a corner of your basted block, sewing back and forth several times to make a strong connection.

Pin the other pieced block right sides together to the basted block and stitch at 1/4 inch, leaving an opening for turning at the bottom of the block. Need I say it? You should always lock your stitches at the beginning and ending of every seam, and that is particularly important when you have a project that you have to turn to right side.
And one more thing:

Sew diagonally across the corners for 3 or 4 stitches to make the corners really nice when you turn them.

Now clip the corners and turn the pot holder right side out. Press.

Carefully fold under the open seam at the bottom and pin.

Stitch across the opening at a scant 1/8th inch. Press. Quilt as desired. I stitched in the ditch on the front.

Finished pot holder:front

Finished pot holder: back

I hope these instructions are clear and I didn't leave out any vital information, like how much flour to add to the cookie dough recipe. Please let me know if you make any pot holders from this pattern and how the instructions worked for you! Good luck!